Team Wideopenmag is well known for signing young, unknown talent. When Chris Hutchens got in touch we decided to break the mould and pick up someone with more of a history in mountain biking.
Sure, he’s not the biggest name in the game but he’s got a pedigree of racing in the UK and on the World Cup DH scene and has (like our previous enduro rider Mark Scott) already had a great career as an elite racer.
To welcome Chris to the team we sat him down for a chat and sent him out with film maker Glen Thomson for a lap of his local big-mountain Scottish trails.
So Chris, new year, new team, new plan. How do you feeling going into 2016? What’s your plans for the year and what are you hoping to make happen?
I’m mega excited for 2016. I’ve put a lot in over the past few years and to team up with Wideopenmag for the year is perfect for me. You guys have a strong heritage of racing and supporting UK riders. I’ve got a busy year of racing ahead of me along with some exciting media projects and I’m hoping to continue to climb the enduro ranks and put more content out there. I had a great 2015 season so I better deliver some good results for the team now! No pressure.
You’ve got a pretty long history in downhill. Can you give us a quick reminder of what you’ve achieved in your time racing bikes?
I’ve been racing bikes since I was 10 so you might class me as part of the mountain bike furniture now. I had some amazing years racing downhill as a youngster winning the British Series as a Juvenile and being right up there as a Youth and Junior with some national silverware. The highlight was racing World Champs in Junior in front of a home crowd in Fort William. I qualified 5th but got a little over excited and after blowing a few turns I ended up 9th. I then spent 5 years racing World Cups, mainly as a privateer after a year with Mojo. My best World Cup result was 17th and I had a handful of top 50’s as well. It was great travelling to some amazing venues all over the world!
And what made you decide to make the leap over to enduro and what have you made happen since then?
When I finished uni in 2012 I went travelling in Japan for the summer and then started working. That was a bit of a shock and downhill took a back seat. After settling into the 9-5 lifestyle, with some work abroad I was riding cross country most of the time and dabbled in some enduro races in 2013. I was keen to get back into downhill so splashed out on a new bike. After racing it once and riding it for two days I realised that it was haemorrhaging cash and I was just riding my small bike. That’s when I started to focus on enduro and with some work on my fitness began to get some results. I’d safely say I’m now an enduro rider. Would I give another downhill race a go though……I just need to get my leg over a downhill bike and I’m there!
How do you feel about enduro compared to downhill? What are the big differences you can see compared to World Cup DH?
Downhill definitely feeds rider perfectly into Enduro and you have to have the downhill skills to do well. They’re both amazing sports and push you as an athlete in so many ways. I think downhill will always have that down to the line excitement and the live coverage, edge of the seat viewing. World Cup DH is incredible to watch. Every year it’s exciting to hear Warner come on the live feed. Downhill is so well established and I think enduro has a long way to go still. Could enduro be a bigger sport than downhill though? I can see it growing more over the next 5 years. Any mountain biker can relate to it, grab their bike and shred the trails. It’s a more accessible sport which I think you can see from the entry numbers across the country.
… and for you as a racer. How differently do you have to approach racing and training as an elite enduro racer compared to an elite downhill racer.
As a racer it’s definitely different. In downhill you practiced one track and had to have it precisely dialled. It was flat out and you had to take risks every weekend, pulling out the big lines. I loved the approach to this though. It takes a lot of power and strength to excel at downhill but you need some serious bike skills as well. When I came across to enduro I had to really up the miles and develop, ermmm endurance! Although downhill you had to be able to practice run after run over the week/weekend you need to be able to ride a 60km loop in enduro and still be explosive and strong on the descents. It’s a hard discipline to train for but I love the different approach and mixing up my training. It’s amazing to be working with Ben from MTB Strength Factory as well this year making sure I use my training time most effectively. I’ve also been helping Stefan Morrocco from Morrocco Media develop his video analysis coaching which has allowed me to work on some weaknesses of mine. I put together a few articles over the winter which delve into this a bit more. Have a read here.
Tell us a bit about filming with Glen. Where did you shoot and what went down? What are those trails?
Glen is a rad dude, he’s just coming through the filming ranks but I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing more of his stuff in the future. He’s got an artistic eye and is pretty handy with his drone. We headed to Dunkeld for a day and then the Ochil Hills near Stirling. Both places were fun to ride and we struck pretty lucky with the weather. Glen seems fearless for placing himself on the track during filming and we had some close calls. I’m sure he’ll get one of the out-takes up sometime. His camera bag provided a soft landing for me after ejecting at Mach 10 towards him. Sorry buddy!
You’ve already scored a top result this year with a second place at the BES. How did you find the new format and the series? Did it live up to the hype?
Thanks, the first BES was a tough one. Conditions were horrendous but I think Si and the team put on a good event for their first attempt. I had a pretty good race except a big crash on Saturday on the 3rd stage which ultimately cost me the win after finishing 2nd just over 1 second back. It was really good racing though. The two day race format actually worked well. I was sceptical about it but it made for some big days riding. I probably prefer the more laid back Scottish Enduro Series approach with a practice day Saturday and then racing on Sunday. It allows for more coffee and cake time!
Any wise words for young enduro wannabes?
Just get out there and ride. Mix up your riding and get the miles in as well. If you’re fast on the downhills then keep this skill sharp but make sure you’re able to hold onto the bike by the end of the day. You need to work pretty hard these days to stay at the top of the rankings or to get there. If you think you’ve got a weakness then look at getting some coaching. All the top riders will happily give some pointers so get chatting and try and ride with some of the better guys. I’m excited to see some young Scottish talent come through in enduro, we’ve got the perfect terrain to breed some champions.
You can follow Chris on Wideopenmag here or on Instagram here. He’ll be racing the British Enduro Series, Scottish Enduro Series and European Enduro World Series races.